How to choose the right broadband deal

Sharing a home isn’t always smooth sailing, and broadband – with its potential for problems surrounding billing, contracts, and technical issues – is one of those things that can be a flashpoint. However, it’s can be easy to solve with a little planning and a few tricks.

We partnered with Broadband Genie to create this guide, where we’ll explain how to get the right broadband service for your home and provide some handy tips so that everybody in your home can get what they need from a shared broadband connection.

How to choose the right broadband deal for your shared home

For many people, the price of broadband is often the thing that gets the most attention. And while that is important, it’s not the most critical aspect of a package when you’re selecting a shared broadband deal.

We recommend starting your search by focusing on the speed of the connection. It is this that will affect what you can do with the internet, and, crucially, how many people can use the internet at the same time.

Aim for a speed of 10Mbps for each person sharing the connection. But double it for everyone who may be using the internet for data-intensive activities, such as streaming video or frequent file downloads. This is important because one person can easily use up all available bandwidth and drastically reduce performance for everyone else.

You need to ensure you’ve got enough speed to let people do what they want without impacting the rest of the house.

Once you’ve identified the right speed for your broadband service, it’s time to focus on some other aspects of a deal:

  • Download limits and usage restrictions. Unless there’s no other choice, always go for an unlimited deal. Data-capped packages are unlikely to be much cheaper, and exceeding the usage cap could end up costing you more in the long run. Also, try to avoid providers that have ‘fair use’ limits or traffic management policies. While these aren’t always a major hindrance, there are plenty of providers which offer truly unlimited broadband without any restrictions.
  • Contract length. The best deals will have a contract length of 12, 18, or 24 months. If you know in advance that you’ll have to cancel before the contract ends, look for a shorter term because early cancellation can be expensive. It’s worth having a conversation with your housemates about what to do if someone leaves, to arrange how the additional cost will be shared, and who will take over the contract if the account holder moves out.
  • Free gifts and extras. Some deals include shopping vouchers, prepaid credit cards, and other freebies. These are well worth looking out for as they can add up to a significant saving. But remember that free gifts will be issued to the account holder, so everyone in your home should agree in advance on how the rewards will be shared.

Getting the most out of your shared broadband

Once you’ve got a fantastic new broadband service up and running, it’s worth spending some time making sure it’s all running at its best.

Note that for some of these you’ll need to access your router’s administration control panel; consult the user manual for help if you’re not sure how to do this.

Improving Wi-Fi signal

Weak Wi-Fi signal is a common cause for complaint. Here are a few tips that can help:

Optimise the router location. If possible, place your Wi-Fi router in a central location to get the best Wi-Fi coverage. Keep it away from walls and appliances (especially fridges, microwaves, and cordless phones) as this can impede the signal.

Install wireless boosters. Wireless boosters are cheap, compact gadgets which amplify a weak signal, extending it to areas where you might otherwise struggle to get a good connection.

Install a mesh network. A Wi-Fi mesh network uses multiple access points to blanket your home in wireless coverage. It is a more expensive option than a booster but can provide faster and more reliable connectivity so you can get a good signal everywhere.

Get a wired connection with powerline adapters. Powerline network adapters use electrical circuits to transfer data. If you find that wireless is a bit unreliable, pick up a cheap powerline kit and create your own wired network without drilling holes in the wall.

Change the Wi-Fi channel. Wi-Fi networks operate on different channels, and generally, it’s fine to let the router handle this automatically. But in busy areas, you might get lots of networks sharing the same channel, which can slow things down. Use a smartphone Wi-Fi analyser app (such as ‘Wi-Fi Analyzer’ for Android) to see which channels are quiet, and manually set your Wi-Fi channel.

Managing your home broadband

If you don’t mind getting a bit technical, there are some handy features found on Wi-Fi routers which can help you manage a shared home broadband network.

Monitor connected devices. Regularly check the devices connected to your router to ensure you’re not providing free internet to cheeky neighbours.

Prioritise with QoS. Quality of Service (QoS) is a feature which lets you assign certain activities higher priority. For example, if you’re working from home, it might be helpful to give video chat tools like Zoom higher priority to maintain video and audio quality.

Allocate bandwidth. Some routers have the ability to allocate a set amount of broadband speed for each device. This can be used to stop people saturating the entire connection with a high-definition Netflix stream, and also works to ensure everyone has the bandwidth they need without having a daily conversation about holding off on big downloads until you’ve finished work.